There is no escaping the legacy of The Atiitude Era and it still casts a long shadow over WWE today. It is constantly referenced on TV, online and last WrestleMania WWE tried to recreate it with Triple H and Sting turning into DX vs NWO. Wrestling popularity hit a peak that we may never see again and those of us who lived through those times remember them fondly. Now thanks to the WWE Network those too young to remember can now relive those magic moments. But there is so much content available it can be overwhelming, so for those too young to remember, or for those who simply want to re-watch some classic wrestling, here are my essential picks and should be viewed in chronological order.
(I have made the below spoiler free for the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with these matches, and for those who have simply forgotten the outcome!)
The Undertaker vs. Shawn Michaels
Where to find: In Your House XVIII: Badd Blood (1997)
The first and greatest Hell In A Cell match, which marked the dawn of the Attitude era. It all started here. It had been "The Heartbreak Kid" who had cost "The Phenom" the WWE Championship in a match against Bret Hart in which Shawn was referee. Michaels, backed by a DX line up consisting of Rick Rude, Triple H and Chyna, had in the build up violently attacked and taunted the Undertaker. There was a score to settle and within the new disturbing structure.
Steve Austin vs. Dude Love Pt.1
Where to find: Unforgiven (1998)
A story-laced brawl which captures the Austin vs McMahon feud at its peak. Having failed to convert Austin into his corporate champion, Vince challenged Austin to face him with one arm tied between his back as Austin had bragged he could do. During that match on Raw Dude Love appeared who firstly attacked McMahon, but then turned on Austin when he intervened. Stone Cold claimed it was a conspiracy between the two all along to which McMahon replied he had been "watching too many Oliver Stone movies". Here Mick Foley's "Dude" takes on Austin for the WWE Title.
Steve Austin vs. Dude Love Pt.2
Where to find: Over The Edge (1998)
Relations between Austin and McMahon were getting more and more strained. McMahon wearing a mask had assaulted Austin on Raw with a steel chair, but after bragging about this on Raw was arrested. Austin agreed to have him released on the basis he made a heartfelt apology. Mr McMahon more furious than ever then made himself special guest referee in the following encounter.
Undertaker vs Mankind
Where to find: King Of The Ring (1998)
The third ever Hell In A Cell match was as memorable as the first, but for differing reasons. In this match The Undertaker would take on Mick Foley's "Mankind", the persona he had reverted back to in order to rekindle his feud with "The Phenom". Prior to this bout Mankind had cost the Undertaker in a number one contender match, so once again the demonic structure was erected to settle a score.
Triple H vs Cactus Jack Pt.1
Where to find: Royal Rumble (2000)
WWE Champion Triple H and his new wife Stephanie had fired Mankind from WWE before mocking him in various segments on Raw. He was reinstated after a superstar protest led by The Rock and Mankind faced Triple H on his return in a match Hunter won. So before their street fight at Royal Rumble Mick Foley decided it was time to unleash the personification of hardcore, Cactus Jack.
Triple H vs Cactus Jack Pt.2
Where to find: No Way Out (2000)
Another match staged in "The Cell" after Triple H gave Cactus Jack the chance to pick the type of match for their next encounter. Another great match from two legends of the era.
Triple H vs Chris Jericho
Where to find: Fully Loaded (2000)
That's three in a row for Hunter and another great match. Compiling this has made me realise just how much I underrate him. In the build up Jericho had kissed Stephanie and cost Triple H a number one contender match, set him up for a stink face from Rikishi and was instrumental in Hunter being beaten by The Brooklyn Brawler. After an assault from DX and Hunter's sledgehammer left him a bloody mess on Raw the two met to settle their feud in a Last Man Standing match.
Edge and Christian vs The Hardy Boyz vs The Dudley Boyz Pt.1
Where to find: SummerSlam (2000)
The first of two titanic TLC stunt matches which, like many battles of the era, are now a guilty pleasure, given the number of brutal head and body shots the participants absorbed. Here stars were born. In the build Tag Team Champions Edge and Christian had attacked The Hardy's and Dudley Boyz with numerous chair shots. The Hardy Boyz had retaliated with moves delivered from ladders and Dudley Boyz with moves delivered through tables. So here, for the first time, all these elements were brought together.
Edge and Christian vs. The Hardy Boyz vs. The Dudley Boyz Pt.2
Where to find: WrestleMania 17 (2001)
In TLC 2 we get the three teams attempting to outdo their first encounter. A bold move and one that delivered another classic. And here our brief journey through The Attitude Era ends.
Now there is a way to spend a Saturday night. In future instalments I will be picking out the best matches for individual superstars or tag teams and title belts. Let me know in the comments if there is anything in particular you want recommendations for.